Forging Ahead

This will be my final installment of “In the Meantime” as a podcast and written blog for Grace Church. Churches and institutions such as cities all go through cycles of growth, decline, and rebirth. My time at Grace over this last eleven years has been one of preparation of the parish for rebirth and growth. It is time to name some of these emerging, positive signs of rebirth and celebrate them.

Engagement – This vestry is more engaged and committed to the life of the church than ever before. Other people within the parish are stepping up to lead various activities. This is a terrific sign of progress.

Finance – So far, we have knocked a $170,000 deficit for 2021 down to $105,000. When the vestry establishes the endowment, that will take another $10,000 or more off. We are confident that continued fundraisers, annual giving, and other activities will bring the deficit down to between $30-$50K. At that level, the bishop will allow the parish to begin the search process.

Stewardship – We now have online giving providing a significant way for people to contribute financially.  This will grow as we integrate it into online worship. The vestry is committed to stronger stewardship campaigns starting in the fall. Both activities will help a lot.

Ministries – Our Cub Scout troop has created a new Boy Scout troop. Education For Ministry will restart this fall. The meals are going out to shut-ins. Adult Sunday School will start in the fall. We may also launch our third Very Big Slide event in August.

Worship – We now have a professional video capability and Sunday services are now broadcast on Facebook and YouTube. We reach people all over the United States now. We reach newcomers virtually before they come through the doors of the church. Young people are especially drawn to online worship. This is the new definition of what it means to be a “parish.” Our boundaries have extended globally.

Diocese – We have a bishop who cares about Grace Church and who wants small-town churches to be “vital.” Grace is on a path to be a vital force in Muskogee and the diocese.

Physical Plant – In 2014 we completed a beautiful remodel project, and we greatly improved the attractiveness and functionality of the church. In the process we strung the cables and infrastructure for a digital future that we are only now beginning to see. The Margaret’s Garden area on Sixth and Court is green and attractive. The parking lot around it will be leased to a law firm providing ongoing future income for years. Many other critical repairs have been identified and are being addressed. We do all this because we plan for Grace to be here another hundred years.

Community – We have forged a diverse community these past years. Not so much in the obvious racial and sexual notions, but in income, political ideology, and theology. Yes, we have a diversity in race and human sexuality, but the more important ideas of different social classes coming together to worship the one God who creates us, sustains us, and gives life to all of us is now an important part of the identity of Grace. I am proud to have been a shepherd in bringing the heart of Jesus into the actions of this church community.

Part of the genius of Anglican-Episcopal Churches is the transition of leadership. Our democratic governments borrowed the ideas of leadership transition from the Church of England. Leadership of an individual parish like Grace or a diocese is never a solo act depending upon the strength of one leader. It is a relay race. Each runner carries the baton for a distance and passes it off to the next. With mixed feelings of sadness that I will no longer be your rector, joy that we have accomplished so much, and pride in how far Grace Church has traveled, I approach the next runner, ready to pass the baton.

I will continue to serve the church in writing, consulting, and occasional worship. My role in the church is not ended. It is changing.

I will always be grateful for you and for our time together. God bless you all.

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